Most longtime fans of “The Game” are familiar with this story: the sitcom, created and executive produced by Mara Brock Akil, was cancelled by The CW and a Facebook page was created by a fan to get the show back on the air. That page, the brainchild of insurance agent Stacey Mattocks, would go on to become a social media phenomenon, with 750,000 likes by the time BET announced they were picking up “The Game,” and 3.3 million likes when the show premiered on the network.
Mattocks says the page was “credited by BET executives for playing a critical role in reviving interest in the Show and making it a massive success with viewers.” When “The Game” debuted on BET in January 2011, it attracted a record 7.7 million viewers, becoming the second most-watched program in the network’s 30 year-history. Social media played an integral role in facilitating that achievement.
Behind-the-scenes, things quickly started to go awry. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mattocks, who recently filed a lawsuit against BET Networks, found herself embroiled in a two-year battle with the company over her wildly successful Facebook page.
She claims BET Networks submitted a proposal in December 2010 that would’ve paid her a maximum of $85,000 over a one year period for her social media efforts, stripped her of all rights to the page and “could have been terminated at any point by BET, with or without cause.” She rejected it.
In February 2011, one month after The Game’s record-breaking BET premiere, Facebook disabled her account. BET then contacted Facebook to inform them that it had been a “mistake” and her page was reenabled.
The following day, BET sent Mattocks a letter agreement which would grant them access to her page. The terms of the agreement dictated that BET wouldn’t change administrative rights to exclude Mattocks. She executed that agreement in fear that her page would be disabled again. However, in August 2012, after two more failed negotiations, BET contacted Mattocks attempting to terminate that letter agreement and asked Facebook to remove her page, which had 6.2 million likes at the time.
The removal reportedly caused Mattocks to lose income, which she garnered through sponsored posts, Google AdSense and Amazon referrals. Mattocks alleges that BET “committed tortious interference, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, and copyright infringement.” She is suing for copyright infringement because she claims BET “[copied] elements from her Facebook page onto its own Facebook page.”
BET has yet to comment publicly on the lawsuit. The outcome will set a precedent for networks who seek to gain control of social media pages that fans build from the ground up through their own hard work and vision. If fans don’t purport their pages to be the “official” social media accounts for a network show, does said network have the right to assume ownership of those pages or delete them at will? What are your thoughts?